The chaos all around us is what happens when the nation elects an incompetent, narcissistic, impulsive and amoral man as president. This Christmas, heaven help us all.
Much of the government is shut down over symbolic funding for an insignificant portion of a useless border wall that President Trump said Mexico would pay for. The financial markets are having a nervous breakdown that Trump and his aides are making worse. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, widely seen as having kept Trump from plunging national security off some vertiginous cliff, resigned in protest over the president’s latest whim and is being shoved out the door two months early. The world’s leading military and economic power is being yanked to and fro as if by a bratty adolescent with anger management issues.
It has become a cliche to quote William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming,” written almost 100 years ago in the aftermath of World War I. But no one has said it better: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . . And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”
We should acknowledge such apocalyptic thoughts so that we may conquer them. For many millennia, this has been the season of hope and renewal — the time of year when, in the Northern Hemisphere, the daylight hours begin to grow longer and the promise of spring, still months away, is assured. While Christians celebrate the birth of their savior, others mark the turning of a page and the coming of a brighter tomorrow.
So we must be realistic but never hopeless. Much has gone wrong. But it is in our power to put things right.
It is difficult, at the moment, to fully assess the damage Trump is wreaking. We have never had a president like him, so history is a poor guide. For his racism, we can perhaps look back to Woodrow Wilson; his general unfitness to hold the nation’s highest office recalls the hapless Andrew Johnson. Maybe Andrew Jackson was as impetuous, maybe Richard M. Nixon as venal.